What do you do when a security company may not be able to send enough personnel to get the job done?
Well, if you’re in the British government and preparing to host the world at the upcoming Olympics later this month, you call in the army.
The British press reported yesterday that more than 3,500 extra troops are being sent in to backstop what they believe to be a huge shortage of security staff that the private firm G4S was meant to send.
According to The Guardian, ministers were forced into the last-ditch move only 14 days before the Games because they are concerned that G4S cannot guarantee it will be able to supply the 13,700 guards it was contracted to deliver.
Making matters worse – from a morale perspective at least – seasoned army staff are being asked to do routine tasks such as bag checks.
The Daily Telegraph reported that senior officers in the Ministry of Defence have angrily complained to Olympic organizers, accusing them of mismanaging their security contract and leaving the Armed Forces to bear the burden.
“It is very demeaning that highly professional soldiers and Marines who have served two or three tours of duty in Afghanistan now find themselves doing bog-standard security checks because the Olympic organizers can’t get their act together,” one senior military officer said.
G4S defended its role in this security issue with a statement released to the media.
“This has been an unprecedented and very complex security recruitment, training and deployment exercise, which has been carried out to a tight timescale,” G4S said. “We have encountered some issues in relation to workforce supply and scheduling over the last couple of weeks, but are resolving these every day.”
The size of London’s security contingent has been contentious for some time.
Last December, the Guardian reported that the London organizing committee (Locog) admitted that it had wildly underestimated the number of staff required to deliver security at 34 Olympic venues in London and around the country.
The figure required more than doubled from 10,000 to 23,700 and the budget went up from £282m to £553m. The Home Office permanent secretary, Dame Helen Ghosh, has admitted that Locog’s original “best estimate” of 10,000 security staff within venues had been a “finger in the air” exercise.
We’ll keep a close eye on security issues during the Olympics in London. So stayed tuned.